Shambhala Meditation Center of Chicago
Shambhala is a global network of more than 200 local communities and thousands of individual members worldwide founded upon the principles of the Shambhala Buddhist lineage of human goodness, genuineness and compassion. The Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche is the highest leader of Shambhala, who carries out his father’s legacy as the founder of the Shambhala meditative practice in the West, and is a recognized global leader in peace initiatives.
The Shambhala organization retained Thinkinc. to conceptualize and execute a strategic plan that would leverage the timely opportunity of the Sakyong’s international speaking tour, kicking off in Chicago, to engage in policy discussions around societal issues where Shambhala could add value and bring peace practices to a broader audience.
PROGRAM GOALS & ACTIVITIES
For more than 50 years, Shambhala has helped practitioners focus on principles to bring about peace amidst the challenges of daily living. However, the Sakyong felt the organization was at a pivotal point in the future of society to engage other audiences in working toward peace by offering tools to help address core societal issues. Thinkinc. was engaged to build a footprint for Shambhala in the policy arena and provide a model for Shambhala to play a role in policy issues in communities around the country and the world.
Thinkinc. conceptualized a framework for the weekend event, the Imagining Peace Conference, which then featured a Youth Congress on Peace, that would address the pressing issue of escalating youth violence in the Chicago region through a lens of peace, asking the vital question to policy makers, students and community leaders what their vision of peace was for their communities. The conference/congress served as an effective vehicle for connecting the Shambhala organization with a range of policy makers and a broader regional audience of youth advocacy organizations, violence prevention organizations, regional stakeholders, community members and at-risk youth.
Thinkinc. worked with Shambhala staff and volunteers to design and plan a program that could be executed on a limited budget, by drawing on both Shambhala’s and Thinkinc.’s relationships to help identify partners such as Malcolm X City College to host the Youth Congress on Peace event, and honorary co-chairs and co-sponsors, including: honorary co-chairs, City of Chicago Mayor Emanuel and Cook County Board President Preckwinkle; nearly 30 youth advocacy and violence prevention organizations; and media sponsor, WBEZ, who could serve as a distribution model for promotional activities. Through these partnerships, Shambhala was able to gain extensive support for the program and enlist partner assistance in promoting and ensuring turnout for the event.
Thinkinc. also arranged for C-Map to provide complementary keypad voting technology, which was used throughout the program to develop a Peace Platform that will be presented to Honorary Co Chairs Emanuel and Preckwinkle.
Thinkinc. supported Shambhala staff and volunteers in internal planning activities and served as the primary liaison to the partners, bringing them into the fold to develop a meaningful agenda and to ensure the youth voice was carried through the program.
Thinkinc. worked with City Colleges of Chicago, CeaseFire Chicago and The Chicago Urban League to provide space for partner meetings and youth leader training. During the partner planning meetings, the group decided that in order to ensure the youth voice was prevalent in the program, youth should serve as facilitators and moderators throughout the program. To help prepare youth leaders for their active role in high-profile event, Shambhala enlisted co-sponsor, Center for Civic Reflection, who designed and conducted a facilitation-training program for the youth and at the conclusion of the training, presented the youth with a certificate to list on their resumes.
As part of the program development, Thinkinc. and Shambhala’s team negotiated and secured a partnership with Community TV Network to produce videos throughout the program. Thinkinc. facilitated communication with the offices of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle as honorary co-chairs, arranged for videotaped presentations and drafted and revised the scripts used in the tapings.
Thinkinc. and Shambhala worked with co sponsoring organizations to infuse the program with youth art, poetry and prose, music and theater inspiration, including a workshop and concluding presentation with The Goodman Theater. Thinkinc. worked as an extension of the Shambhala team to identify, enlist and prepare speakers, panelists, facilitators and moderators with key talking points for the event, drafted the internal script for the day’s program and assisted with onsite logistics – specifically the keypad voting technology used for building the Peace Platform.
Thinkinc. also developed and distributed all media and external event promotional materials, conducted media outreach, prepared Shambhala spokespeople for interviews, and managed all media relations and story placements.
In addition, Thinkinc. drafted copy for electronic promotional materials including evites, postcards, posters and website copy. Midway through the event planning, Thinkinc. also secured an external designer to develop a brand targeting external audiences.
The Youth Congress on Peace resulted in developing a Peace Platform to be presented to Mayor Emanuel and Board President Preckwinkle, that was built through a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, intergenerational, and multi-faith forum of more than 1,000 attendees at the opening event, 450 participants in the Youth Congress on Peace, and more than 200 attendees at the concluding program.
The tremendous response and active involvement in the program by so many participants positioned Shambhala as an important contributor to addressing societal issues and set the stage for future dialogue on how Shambhala could contribute to policy discussions. And, as a result of Thinkinc.’s efforts, the program also provided a national and international model for interacting with communities on policy issues to bring about peace.
Thinkinc. also arranged for The Sakyong to meet with CeaseFire Chicago Interrupters, as well as a personal meeting with its founder to form a larger strategic alliance between the organizations.
• Chicago Tribune | April 27, 2013: Chicago center brings meditative mindset to combating youth violence: Buddhist leader, group to host gathering to teach activists, young students ways of handling turbulence